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Heat Your Home With Only An Acre of Trees
There are all kinds of uses for an acre of land. If you're somone like Kurt and son Jim Carlson, of Roseburg, Wash., you can use the acre to try to supply all of your home heating needs.
"We heat our entire home with firewood," Karl says, noting that increasing scarcity of wood and increases in wood permit costs led the Carlsons to do a little experimenting on the pasture land near their house.
"I read an article in Sunset Magazine which recommended planting maples for firewood," Karl notes.
"I thought that might be the answer to our heating problems and so I called Bob Logan, our extension forestry specialist. Bob suggested I try planting eucalyptus, which is a very fast grower."
Although neither Logan nor the Carlsons have any information on the BTU or heat content of a cord of eucalyptus, they know several things that might make the tree suitable for solving the fuel needs of many households in the Northwest and South.
The 230-plus trees the Carlson planted as knee-high saplings in September of 1981 already tower 20 or more feet high quite an impressive increase in biomass in two years. Unlike pine and the other soft woods that produce more ash than heat, eucalyptus is a medium-hard wood and so, the Carlson hope, should be an economical heat source.
From what the Carlsons have seen, eucalyptus are also an extremely hardy tree an advantage when faced with the extremes of the hot and cold, wet and dry climate of the Cascades.
"We planted the trees in a low lying part of our pasture," Jim explains. "That first winter we had severe flooding. That whole end of the pasture and the trees were under water for several days; and then it froze. So we really didn't think the trees would make it, but they did."
The Carlson plan to let their cattle back into the tree planting this year as the trees will be large enough that the cattle won't be able to damage them.
The two then plan to start thinning and using the trees two years later five years after the initial planting.
"We really don't know yet how big the trees will be by then," says Karl. "But what we've planted should get us through at least a couple of winters."
Replanting their timber will be the least of the Carlsons' worries.
As Jim explains, each time a tree is cut two or three new trees will sprout from the original root stock.
"With proper management our wood lot should be able to sustain our heating needs year after year," Jim points out. "Of course, we have to see how the wood burns and how much we need to get through the winter, and then, if need be, expand our planting."
(Reprinted from the Washington Farmer-Stockman)

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1984 - Volume #8, Issue #2